User ID
  Forgot User ID
or Register Today!
Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us on Google+ VI Mobile Scores and Betting Odds
Betting Tools

Saints say NFL bounty probe took a toll on season

METAIRIE, La. (AP) - Blame the bounty scandal.

That's what many in New Orleans are doing, including some Saints.

They blame it for overshadowing their entire season, for unfairly portraying the team as the NFL's No. 1 sinners.

And they blame it, in part, for a mistake-prone 0-4 start that led to New Orleans not making the playoffs for the first time in four years.

Players and coaches had said they would not allow the NFL's disruptive probe of the Saints' cash-for-hits program and resulting suspensions - including head coach Sean Payton's full-season ban - to become an excuse for failure. At the same time, few at club headquarters say it had no bearing on the club's performance.

``Forever you can equate the two and I think it's fair to equate the two,'' said linebacker Scott Shanle, now finishing his seventh season in New Orleans. ``Never has a coach been suspended for an entire year and it's a pretty big deal when you look at the grand scheme of what a head coach does, especially a coach like coach Payton, who's had the success he's had.''

In addition to Payton's suspension, general manager Mickey Loomis got eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt six games before returning to serve in the interim head coaching role he assumed when Payton's suspension began in the offseason. While Vitt was away, offensive line coach Aaron Kromer stepped in as interim to the interim head coach.

Two defensive captains also were punished initially. But linebacker Jonathan Vilma and end Will Smith undertook a lengthy legal battle that overturned their suspensions, which otherwise would have sideline Vilma for a year and Smith for four games.

Publicly, Vitt preached that the Saints must avoid the temptation to point to the bounty probe when things went wrong. Yet Vitt had a different take when he appeared earlier this month as a witness at a closed hearing for the players' appeals of their punishment.

Speaking before former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who was appointed to oversee the hearings, Vitt made it clear he felt the NFL had undermined the competitive integrity of the league with harsh punishments based primarily on the testimony of two fired assistant coaches: former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and former defensive assistant Mike Cerullo.

``How are we going to sell this to our public? How are we going to sell this to the season ticket holders, that this has all taken place? We're 5-7, we've disappointed a community, we've disappointed a region because of Mike Cerullo and Gregg Williams? How do we do this? How do we sell this?'' Vitt said on Dec. 3, according to transcripts obtained by The Associated Press. ``Sean is suspended for a year, Mickey Loomis for eight weeks? ... Who got hurt? Who was maimed? Look at the film. Who are we going to sell this to?''

Less than a week after Vitt's testimony, the Saints visited the New York Giants and lost 52-27, falling to 5-8.

New Orleans has since rallied for two straight wins, and can finish the season 8-8 with a victory at home on Sunday over Carolina. But that is far short of expectations for a team that won more regular-season and playoff games combined than any other during the previous three seasons.

``We can reflect much more at the end of the season. I'd rather not even try to go too deep right now,'' quarterback Drew Brees said this week when asked about the bounty probe's toll. ``Were there distractions? Yeah. Was there circumstances swirling around us that were just crazy and we had no idea what to expect, challenges? Yes, most definitely. But I will not allow myself, we will not allow our team, to use that as a crutch or an excuse. Others might say ... `It affected you guys.' That's fine, but we're not going to go there.''

The Saints have long since acknowledged they had a performance pool that offered nominal cash rewards for big plays, including big hits, similar to what numerous other teams have run for generations. However, players and coaches have been adamant that they never ran a bounty program of the nefarious and intentionally injurious nature described by the league, and that they were unjustly singled out and punished.

Saints right tackle Zach Strief said he and teammates were angry about the way the club was treated by the league, but added that players generally have tunnel vision during the season.

``There's a period in the offseason when you can feel that way, and then once the season starts there's no time to worry about it,'' Strief said.

Strief said the experienced assistant coaches who ran the team in Payton's absence did a good job keeping the routine largely the same and delivering messages in meetings similar to the way Payton had in the past.

``I don't ever remember going on the field and saying, `That meeting on Wednesday really has me shaken up.' So I don't think there's necessarily an effect like that,'' Strief said. ``But obviously there's a reason (Payton is) a head football coach in the NFL, because he's a talented coach, and so it's not just players that lose something from him not being here. He's also an integral part of our coaching staff and they didn't have him. So you're putting those coaches in situations they've never been in.

``It's more work and more pressure and stress on everybody. Coach Payton carries this big weight, and when he leaves it has to get picked up by a lot of people. You can't deny there's not an effect, but to sit there and say, `How many wins does that get you?' is impossible.''

New Orleans has won seven of 11 games since the 0-4 start, leaving Shanle to wonder whether the impact of Payton's absence did not manifest itself most early in the regular season. The Saints lost all four games by single digits, including an overtime loss at home to a Kansas City team that is now 2-13.

``I think the start of our season would have been different. We would have won one or two games here or there that would have changed everything to where we are now,'' Shanle said. ``We all said it wouldn't affect us, but it was much harder when that reality came. But after we got used to, `This is how the flow is going to be now,' we played better. We just never played consistently. Our play reflected the roller coaster that was our offseason and our summer.''


Online: and

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2016
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

Marshall: Tech Trends - Week 8 Best Bets - Week 8 'Dogs to Watch - Week 8 Dak, Dallas getting noticed
Titans rout Jaguars, 'over' cashes
Broncos' C.J. Anderson has surgery
Dolphins' Landry fined for illegal block
Big Ben asks rival Brady for his jersey
Aldon Smith applies for reinstatement
Why Buy Picks From
NFL Pro Football Handicapper Sports Picks Records
NFL Hot Streaks
15-2 L17 Totals, 9-1 Sun., 22-8 L30
13-3 G-Play Run, +985 TY
5-2 Sunday, 7-2 L9 G-Plays
9-1 Last 10 NFL Guarantees
6-0 Record L2 Sundays
4-1 Sunday, 10-5 L15 G-Plays
5-2 Sunday, 10-3 L13 Totals
10-3 L3 Sundays, 29-14 NFL Run
7-3 L10 Totals, 18-7 L25 G-Plays
7-1 Thursdays TY, 14-6 L20 GPlays
4-2 Sunday, 4-1 G-Plays TY
6-1 Guaranteed Plays TY
6-2 Record Last 2 Weeks
10-5 L15 Guaranteed Plays
2-0 Thursday, 4-0 Run
4-0 L4 Thurs., 11-5 L16 Picks
6-2 Last 8 NFL Guarantees
NFL Pro Football Expert Picks - Seattle Seahawks at New Orleans Saints
Money Leaders
Handicapper Money
Pat Hawkins + 985
The Gold Sheet + 534
Michael Black + 479
Last Week's Leaders
Handicapper Money
Micah Roberts + 780
Jimmy Boyd + 290
Kevin Rogers + 285
Percentage Leaders
Handicapper Pct
Michael Black 59 %
Pat Hawkins 59 %
The Gold Sheet 57 %
Guaranteed Leaders
Handicapper Money
Pat Hawkins + 1060
Chip Chirimbes + 665
ASA + 631
Over-Under Leaders
Handicapper Money
Paul Bovi + 542
Kevin Rogers + 465
Pat Hawkins + 370
Member Leaders
Handicapper Money
Kevin Rogers + 810
Gary Bart + 654
Jimmy Boyd + 495
corner graphic
With a VI Gold Membership, you can SAVE 10% off a Live Odds subscription, SAVE 20% off Daily Pick packages, and receive access to up to 1,000 Member Plays each month!
VI Gold Membership